— Vladivostok (Владивосток) ~ Pio-Ulski – 1911-1924

George was born in October 1910  in Odessa and was christened in February 1915 in the Church of Alexander Nevsky Siberian Naval Depot, which was located in the Ekipazh Naja Slobodka, in the barracks of the Siberian Naval Depot in Vladivostok.

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His godparents were Navy Ensign Georgiy Sergeyevich Scriabin, and Navy Doctor Nikola Mikhailovich Volhovskiy and his wife, Yulia Pavlovna Volhovskaya. The priest who christened George was Archpriest Andrei Bogoslovski with Deacon Mikhail Molchanoff.

I found out this was another crisscross with the Nozadzes as just six years later, his future wife was christened at the Uspensky Cathedral in the same town!

His siblings were both Roman Catholic, like their father, but before George was born, the Tsar had issued an edict that all children born to personnel in the Imperial Forces had to be christened Russian Orthodox.

It made me laugh when I read what my father wrote in his “autobiography” …

«By the time I was born all children of the members of the Russian military forces had to be of Orthodox faith, I was christened in a Russian church. However, as my mother was Russian Orthodox, we three were brought up as Orthodox, although at one time my mother had to face a college panel when the school’s Catholic priest complained to the administration that my brother was attending an Orthodox church instead of a Catholic one.»

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George said that they lived in the Naval Officers’ quarters which I guess would have been the Ekipazh Naja Slobodka.

I don’t know which ship Wladyslaw was on during this period. George said that his father was transferred to the West and was listed as missing in action, but once he was listed as MIA, his mother started receiving a pension.

George’s brother, Lyova, attended the Cadets’ Corps in Vladivostok and it would seem the only Cadet Corps there would have been «Хабаровский графа Муравьева-Амурского Кадетский Корпус» (Khabarovsk Count Muraviev-Amursky Cadet Corps).

However just this week I found out that the badge on Lyova’s hat was that of the Vladivostok Gymnasium, and he was also listed there.

[Source: Lists of students for 1899 -1921. Details in the State archive of Primorsky Krai, fond 14, opis 1]
Valia would have gone to her school while George was studying music at the Vladivostok Conservatorium.



History of Vladivostok

Signing the Treaty of Aigun

Signing the Treaty of Aigun

Founded in 1860, after the Treaties of Aigun (1858) and Peking (1860), Vladivostok became the base for the Imperial Pacific Fleet in 1872.

The Treaty of Aigun won Russia 185,000 square miles of land stretching from the left bank of the Amur River right down to the Ussuri River. The Treaty of Peking confirmed the terms in the Treaty of Aigun and also gave the Russians ownership of an additional 133,000 square miles of land east of the Ussuri River down to the Pacific Ocean, all the way to the Korean border and included Vladivostok.

Primorskaya Oblast was established as the easternmost division of the Russian Empire and included Vladivostok. The region was called «Primorsky Krai» (in Russian: Приморского края), aka Primorye.  Primorsky means “maritime” in Russian — so it was known as the Maritime Province/Maritime Territory to English speakers.

Starting as an outpost, Vladivostok soon became a port and then a city with impregnable fortifications. The main harbour was called «Golden Horn Bay» (Zolotoy Rog — in Russian: бухты Золотой Рог) because it resembled the bay in Constantinople. Other bays and inlets were given names of boats and naval vessels, like Sobol, Gornostai and Novik.

Vladivostok’s name comes from «владеть Востоком», which translates as «Own East», indicating that the city was intended to establish Russia’s military presence in the East.

Map of Vladivostok in 1914

Baedeker map of Vladivostok – 1914

In 1903 the Trans-Siberian Railway connected Vladivostok to the west and, a year later, when the Russo-Japanese War started, the city was a major part of the Empire.  It had theatres, an institution of higher education and the Oriental Institute had been founded, and a number of newspapers were published there.  The streets had lighting and there were parks and trees to make the place attractive. In those days, the city ended at «Poslednaya Ulitsa», or “The Last Street”, which bordered on Pokrovskoye Churchyard.

The 1904-05 war caused the city heavy losses but things got back to normal pretty quickly and life continued.  However the city was still in a state of flux  🙁

1907 saw revolts by sailors in the Pacific Fleet, then came WWI with all of its upheavals and then, in 1918, the Czech Legion, a group of Czech nationals who sided with Russia rather than the Austro-Hungarians during WWI, arrived in Vladivostok under the command of General Mikhail Diterikhs.  They overthrew the Bolshevik administration on June 29 and, on July 6, they declared the port to be an Allied protectorate.

August of 1918 saw an influx of foreign troops – Japanese, Americans, Canadians, French and Italians who joined those Czechs who had remained – enter Vladivostok to help keep open the supply lines and guard the supplies. They also headed to Siberia to help Admiral Kolchak and his Provisional All-Russian government; however the majority of the population were war-weary and reluctant to show any support so by 1920, the Allies withdrew from Siberia and North Russia.  The Japanese stayed in Vladivostok until 1922 and when they announced their planned withdrawal, General Mikhail Diterikhs tried to convince them not to leave.  Alas it was to no avail 🙁

When the Japanese finished their withdrawal in October 1922, Diterikhs and his troops were quickly overrun by the Red Army.



Some photos of Lyova, Valia and George taken in Vladivostok …


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The photo on the right was taken around about the same time as the professional one below that was done in 1913 – but which came first?

George would have been 2 years old, Lyova 7/8 years old and Valia, about 5 or 6, I guess.

I don’t know who cut their mother’s head out of the photo – perhaps it was an unflattering picture of Manya and she cut it out herself?

Or it might not have been a photo of their mother – perhaps someone else posed with the children, like Yulia Pavlovna Volhovskaya, George’s godmother?

It could be that Manya removed her face from the photo to protect her from the Bolsheviks, or perhaps the woman joined the Bolsheviks and Manya was so disgusted that she cut off her face in hindsight.  Who knows!?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

1913 August 12 Click to enlarge


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The photographer, E Hosima, had his studio in Demby House, a building which is still standing in Vladivostok today! The photo below shows the building back in George’s day.

Demby House



Here’s George’s take on what happened to him and his family during that time …

«During the Revolution years, Vladivostok was subject to foreign intervention and there were short-lived foreign administrations: Japanese, Czechs, American and some White Russian generals and local Reds.

Troops Collage

Eventually, I think about 1922, the Bolsheviks came to stay for good. My brother had to escape across the border to China, mother had to destroy all the documents referring to our father as an officer, which at that time implied «the enemy of the people». There was a reign of terror when the Reds came – people were taken away from their homes on any flimsy pretext and usually shot in basements.

George with Vladivostok’s Chief of Police (Militia) – I assume he must be the GPU man George write about (Click to enlarge)


Mother had to let a room in our apartment and our tenant turned out to be a KGB (at that time called GPU) man.

He used to bring mother to tears while brazenly telling us how he shot some people in a basement the previous night. But his tenancy gave us some protection and he was friendly with me.

The Bolsheviks threw everything out of gear: the schools were reorganised, good and bad ones mixed and became co-ed. We had to learn political “grammar”, attend demonstrations and so on, and it was I who said to my mother that I am wasting my time at school and she agreed that I should quit and concentrate on my music studies, which were conducted on established lines in the Conservatorium without interference from the authorities.»

The Bolsheviks fighting the Whites

The Bolsheviks fighting the Whites (Click to enlarge)


1918 - Bolshevik Parade

1918 – Bolshevik Parade


This photo below of George and his classmates was taken in 1922, when George was 12.  My goodness, the group all look so miserable, don’t they?  I would assume that this was taken at the regular school and not at the Conservatorium that George said he went to.

George is sitting next to the teacher, to our right but her left …


It must have been such an absolutely terrifying time for the children and their mother, not to mention the other White supporters in the city, when  the Bolsheviks overran the town 🙁

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An influx of foreign troops in the city to help the White Army there, plus the ones who headed off to Siberia to help Admiral Kolchak. Which Russians were true friends and which ones harboured Bolshevik sympathies!  Who to believe?  Who to trust?

Then the Bolsheviks take control, so again… who to believe?  Who to trust?  Who is your friend? Who is your enemy?  Who will be denounced if they’re seen wrinkling their nose up at a Bolshevik rally!

Dear God, how could anyone keep sane under those conditions?  It makes me weep just to think about what it was like in those days 🙁


I believe the above photograph was taken so that Baba Manya would get a visa for herself and her two children to leave Vladivostok as the stamp in the top left corner says «Народный Комиссариат иностранных дел» (People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs) according to my Russian FB friends.

God, the Bolsheviks/Soviets introduced some really ugly words into the Russian language … commissariat, proletariat, comrade, Bolshevik, Soviet, kollektivnoe khoziaistvo–kolkhoz (collective farm), etc, etc, etc.  Bleah 🙁

I was saying that I thought Baba Manya looked strained but surprisingly calm!  I would have been sitting there with a bucket by my side as I know I would have wanted to throw up because of nerves 😮

I can imagine the sighs of relief when Manya managed to get clearance to leave with Valia and George, and meet up with Lyova in Harbin.   However it must have been a heck of a wrench to think of leaving your country as a refugee and not knowing if you would ever be able to return  🙁

What a crappy time to live in, but thank God they got out and certainly my parents made a great life together for their family!



George Pio-Ulski ~ Vladivostok

Photos of Vladivostok when George was there - from 1911 - 1924

*NB – when you click on the album, the screen will show the top of this page. Please just scroll down to see the pictures.



A video taken in 1918 in Vladivostok


A movie of Vladivostok taken in 1919



From what I read …. this video shows the  parade of the LAST White Russian Army and their supporters  :'(  I tried to see if I could recognise Lyova in the parade but – unfortunately – no 🙁






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